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were fabricated with a studious accommodation to the usages which obtained at the time they were written; that the authors of the books found the usages established, and framed the story to account for their original. The Scripture accounts, especially of the Lord's Supper, are too short and cursory, not to say too obscure, and, in this view, deficient, to allow a place for any such suspicion *."
Amongst the proofs of the truth of our proposition, viz. that the story, which we have now, is, in substance, the story which the Christians had then, or, in other words, that the accounts in our Gospels are, as to their principal parts at least, the accounts which the apostles and original teachers of the religion delivered, one arises from observing, that it appears by the
Gospels themselves, that the story was public at the time; that the Christian community was already in possession of the substance and principal parts of the narrative. The Gospels were not the original cause of the Christian history being believed, but were themselves among the consequences of that belief. This is expressly affirmed by Saint Luke, in his brief, but as I think, very important and instructive preface: “Forasmuch (says the evangelist) as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed amongst as, even as they delivered them unto us, which, from the beginning, were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.”—This short introduction testifies, that the substance of the history, which the evangelist was about to write, was already believed by Christians; that it was believed upon the declarations of eye-witnesses and ministers of the word ; that it formed the account of their religion, in which Christians were instructed ; that the office which
* The reader who is conversaat in these researches, by comparing the short Scripture accounts of the Christian rites above-mentioned, with the minute and circumstantial dircctions contained in the pretended apostolical constitutions, will see the force of this observation; the difference between truth and forgery,
the historian proposed to himself, was to trace each particular to its origin, and to fix the certainty of many things which the reader had before heard of. In Saint John's Gospel, the same point appears hence, that there are some principal facts, to which the historian refers, but which he does not relate. A remarkable instance of this kind is the ascension, which is not mentioned by Saint John in its place, at the conclusion of his history, but which is plainly referred to in the following words of the sixth chapter* : “ What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?" And still more positively in the words which Christ, according to our evangelist, spoke to Mary after his resurrection, “ Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go unto my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, unto my God and your Godt." This can only be accounted for by the supposition that Saint John wrote under a sense of the notoriety of Christ's ascension, amongst those by whom his
book was likely to be read. The same account must also be given of Saint Matthew's omission of the same important fact. The thing was very well known, and it did not occur to the historian that it was necessary to add any particulars concerning it. lt
It agrees also with this solution, and with no other, that neither Matthew, nor John, disposes of the person of our Lord in any manner whatever. Other intimations in Saint John's Gospel, of the then general notoriety of the story are the following: His manner of introducing his narrative (ch. i. ver. 15.), “ John bare witness of him, and cried, saying"--evidently presupposes
that his readers knew who John was. His rapid parenthetical reference to John's imprisonment, “ for John was not yet cast into prison*," could only come from a writer whose mind was in the habit of considering John's imprisonment as perfectly notorious. The description of Andrew by the addition “ Simon Peter's brothert," takes it for granted, that Simon Peter was well known. His name had not been mentioned before. The evangelist's noticing I
# John iii. 24. Ibid. i. 40. # Ibid. xxi. 24.
the prevailing misconstruction of a discourse, which Christ held with the beloved disciple, proves that the characters and the discourse were already public. And the observation which these instances afford, is of equal validity for the purpose of the present argument, whoever were the authors of the histories.
These four circumstances ;--first, the recognition of the account in its principal parts, by a series of succeeding writers ; secondly, the total absence of any account of the origin of the religion substantially different from ours ; thirdly, the early and extensive prevalence of rites and institutions, which result from our account; fourthly, our account bearing, in its construction, proof that it is an account of facts, which were known and believed at the time ;-are sufficient, I conceive, to support an assurance, that the story which we have now, is, in general, the story which Christians had at the beginning. I say in general; by which term I mean, that it is the same in its texture, and in its principal facts. For instance, I make no doubt, for